Project Plan |
Proof of Concept
Beta Production |
Beta Delivery |
Final Delivery & Launch
Develop Storyboards & A Testable Alpha Site
You're now ready to begin production in earnest, and it's helpful to pick some representative part of the site that you can actually look at, test, and send out to reviewers. This is known as an "alpha," or prototype version.
You might develop one example of every type of section you'll have, or perhaps fully flesh out one topic. Your goals with the alpha are to see how your content actually looks and works in a Web format and to subject it to review and end-user testing.
To begin, you'll need to develop some sample content. Your writers should develop scripts for the sections you've selected, which you can run by your subject-matter experts.
Since the actual design and coding work for the Web is labor-intensive, it helps to begin with storyboards that can be reviewed on paper. Storyboards indicate the general design and navigation elements that will appear on each type of screen you'll encounter, and you can step through them as if you were following links on your computer screen. Taking this a step further helps clarify your process: Your designer can lay out the text from the scripts using page-design software and add in placeholder graphic and navigation elements (like menus and link buttons) to make a set of "wireframes." You can use the wireframes to judge how the flow of copy is working, how text-heavy each page will be, and whether a user can navigate effectively from one page to the next. You can test the wireframes with representative end users, asking them to read the text and describe how they would move through the material.
When you're comfortable with the wireframes, your designer can make real graphic elements for display on the Web. He or she should discuss with the Web developer how the pages will be formatted so that the developer can produce an HTML template.
If you're producing any elements in Flash or other plug-in formats, you'll need to involve designers and developers who are skilled in working in these environments.
If you're creating a Web site that's centered on core interactive features, it may make more sense to fully develop one or more of these features rather than producing wireframes and an HTML version of a portion of the site. Because interactive features take longer and cost more to create and require more advisor review, they should be worked on before the rest of the site.
Your design and development team will put together the pieces of the alpha, which you should send out for review and testing.
You should plan to have children test your features or site. Have them test versions that are close to being complete. Unlike the testing environment with adults, it can be difficult to explain to a 4-year-old how portions of the feature will work when it's finished. If the feature is a game, you'll get more useful feedback if it doesn't "break" while being played or have selections that don't yet function.
Once you receive feedback from the target audience, use it to make improvements to your site. You will probably be very familiar with your site -- you'll know its structure, how to navigate from one area to another, how to use an interactive feature, etc. User testing can reveal problem areas that you and the site's developers missed or didn't think about.